Erma Johnson Hadley
As a self-described “little girl from Leggett,” Erma Johnson Hadley said she grew up thinking she could never do anything. Yet growing up in the small southeast Texas logging town in the era of legal segregation, Hadley on some level must have known she could – because she became a shining example to more than 100,000 Texas community college students that they can do anything.
Hadley – the first black student from Leggett to graduate from college – was the fourth chancellor and the first woman and first African-American to lead Tarrant County College (TCC) District. With a bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M University and a master’s degree from Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, Hadley spent her career dedicated to the belief that all Texans are entitled to a college education.
In 1968, Hadley became a founding faculty member, teaching business, on then-Tarrant County Junior College’s Northeast Campus. Over the next four decades, Hadley’s professional achievements included: enhancing employee performance by creating Leadership TCC, the TCC Institute and the TCC Employee Scholarship Program; generating new efficiencies in the District through the creation of a District Call Center, District Fulfillment Center, and campus Copy Centers; and building TCC’s human resources function as it exists today – a model among community colleges nationwide.
A champion for diversity, Hadley’s work at TCC translated into measurable growth in the number of both students of color and first-time college students. Considered the conscience for inclusion at TCC, Hadley had also been key to diversifying the face of higher-education faculty and staff.
Since her appointment as chancellor was approved by unanimous vote and lauded with a standing ovation from an overflow crowd, Hadley’s leadership at TCC was characterized by unparalleled openness, pragmatic cost-control and extraordinary communication.
It helps that she had built a strong bond with the Tarrant County community through thousands of hours of service with all types of boards and organizations. Hadley was appointed by Texas governors to the Trinity River Authority of Texas and the Texas Governor’s Committee on Volunteerism, and served almost a decade on the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Board, where she was the first woman and first African-American elected as chairman. Additionally, Hadley had been active at Fort Worth’s Mount Rose Baptist Church for more than 30 years.
Husband, Bill, and daughter, Ardenia Johnson Gould, stood proudly by Hadley as she earned an abundance of awards, including an honorary doctorate degree in education from Paul Quinn College in Dallas. Erma Johnson Hadley died on October 1, 2015.